The Kennesaw Police Department is accused of breathalyzing Electric Cowboy customers as they leave the club in an effort to catch underage drinkers, according to patrons.
In an anonymous tip sent to The Sentinel in early April, one informant said a “sting operation” occurred against minors at the Kennesaw club, in which the word of a bouncer at the club could have a patron sent outside, where officers were waiting to test the blood alcohol level of individuals suspected of underage drinking.
The tip also called for a boycott of Electric Cowboy because of what the author referred to as “Gestapo tactics,” which could result in a permanent arrest record that could negatively impact students applying for jobs or transferring schools.
Attempts to contact the anonymous informant were unsuccessful, as the informant did not respond to The Sentinel’s follow-up to the claim that 65 students were arrested in one night at Electric Cowboy.
Justin Gillis, the general manager of Electric Cowboy, said that while the club does use Kennesaw police to help with safety precautions, no such sting operations are occurring.
“The only point at which a Kennesaw police officer will [test the blood alcohol level of ] an underage patron would be if they are suspected of underage consumption,” Gillis said, “or if one of my staff has seen an underage person drinking.”
Gillis denied that the club or the Kennesaw Police Department screened underage patrons as they were leaving the club.
According to Kennesaw State student Robbie Cox, this simply isn’t true.
Cox, a junior majoring in Business, said he was just one of the club’s many guests asked to submit to a blood alcohol test one night in March.
Not denying that he blew over the legal limit, Cox said he believes the methods used by police to catch underage drinkers are unethical. He said he saw a number of minors being tested and arrested as they attempted to leave the club.
Suspects younger than 21 can be arrested if their blood alcohol content is .02 or higher.
After being tested and arrested, Cox was sent to jail where he was placed in a cell with other underage drinkers from the club.
“I was in a cell with 15 guys,” he said, “and in the cell next to ours was about the same number of people from the club.” That figure doesn’t include the number of women allegedly arrested at the club that night, which Cox said was around eight or nine.
Officer Scott Luther of the Kennesaw Police Department denied that such methods are used, saying that officers are not at the club simply to catch underage drinkers.
“The city ordinance states that a concert hall of that size has to hire two off-duty officers to help with security outside the business,” Luther said. “If there is any suspicion of a minor drinking, part of this operation is that you check in with an officer.”
Luther said that arresting underage drinkers isn’t a nightly occurance, but if there is suspicion that someone has been drinking, whether seen by an officer of the Kennesaw Police Department or one of the staff at Electric Cowboy, the patron’s blood alcohol level would be tested.
As to the the claims that most, if not all minors are tested when trying to leave the club, Luther said, “that’s impossible.”
“There’s no way we could test 50 minors or every underage person within one night.”
Officer Luther said the only time an investigation begins is when a club employee smells alcohol on a minor trying to pick up his/her I.D. from the front desk.
“As soon as an underage person comes out, they don’t just stop them and start an investigation,” Luther said. “There’s a lot more to it than that. There’s not enough minutes in the day to test every single underage person who comes in there.”